It’s sort of like a furiously unwrapped present that was then shoved out of sight, to the back of the Christmas tree.
Yet a significant marketing agreement was unveiled this past Monday for WVU Athletics.
Athletic director Shane Lyons and staff announced it will continue to work with Learfield IMG College for multimedia rights representation through the 2034-35 season.
With six years on an existing contract, the sides agreed to extend it for more than $125 million over the next 16 years. The school said the partnership is worth an average annual value of $7.8 million. The deal also includes funds for improvements to the Coliseum and Milan Puskar Stadium.
That’s significant, folks.
“It will help us remain a viable Power 5 institution,” said Lyons in a release.
One thing I’ve learned about the marketing game at Wheelhouse Creative, however, is the importance of timing.
WVU’s agreement was perfectly timed to be approved by the WVU Board of Governors. It was wrapped up for Christmas.
Yet I wondered about the timing in regard to the national landscape. I haven’t seen like announcements nationally. Why extend the agreement now?
I reached out to Matt Wells, WVU’s senior associate athletics director/external affairs.
“No. 1, the relationship has been great,” Wells said. “The results have been very positive. It’s been a successful partnership since the inception in 2013.”
“The conversation really started when the decision was made to bundle our Tier 3 television rights with the other Big 12 schools, when the conference partnered with ESPN for Big 12 Now on ESPN+.
“That provided an opportunity to look at our prior agreement with IMG College, which is now Learfield IMG College. That led to additional conversations about what the landscape looks like, what we think it might look like, what was going well, where we could do better – on both sides. We spoke about video boards, replacing existing boards and upgrading newer boards. It all led up to the deal we announced on Monday.”
Keep in mind this is separate from the money WVU receives from the Big 12, which totaled $38.8 million in 2018. Under a typical Tier 3 deal, the companies (in this case Learfield IMG College) pay the universities an annual fee and keep the cash from any sponsorships and advertisements they sell. Some deals have a revenue threshold above which the schools and companies share revenue.
Yet how certain is WVU the $7.8 million figure will hold up in this Keep-Up-With-The-Joneses Power 5 Era? In the last ranking available (for 2017), WVU was No. 20, above schools like Tennessee and Florida State.
“That was part of our thinking as we approached these conversations,” Wells said. “It’s something we will keep an eye on in the coming years, but it’s safe to say we feel pretty comfortable and confident in the deal, as Shane (Lyons) said. It will help us remain a viable Power 5 institution.”
Wells acknowledged seeing the aforementioned ranking.
“When those come out, we pay attention to that,” Wells said, “but we have other ways of researching and calibrating our deals against the market.”
Look for other Big 12 schools — all Learfield/IMG – to likewise fall in line and extend deals.
WVU just happened to wrap its gift early.
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Before joining Wheelhouse Creative, Mitch Vingle covered sports in West Virginia for 38 years. Follow Mitch on Twitter at @MitchVingle and be sure to check out the rest of Wheelhouse Creative’s website for your marketing and advertising needs. If interested, call us at 304-905-6005.